Damian ‘Damie’ Augustyniak came out on top in the West Ham esports Cup powered by Basset & Gold as he walked out of the London Stadium with the giant cheque for £10,000 after defeating Fnatic Roma team-mate Conran ‘Rannerz’ Tobin in the final.
The Hammers hosted their first esports tournament with 16 of the best FIFA 19 players in the UK competing with their own Ultimate Team squads. However, with the FUT servers down West Ham were forced to change the tournament format last second with every player using West Ham in the 85-rated mode.
The aforementioned mode makes every player 85-rated with their stats depending on their position and every player was locked to a maximum of three-star skills. It was a change that had to be made but suited some more than others.
Goal’s own player Danny Taylor, who was participating at the event, had been vocal even before the tournament stating that he wished all events were on an even playing field. He stated on stream that all three of Fnatic’s players at the event had superior squads to his, meaning Taylor faced an uphill struggle from the start.
With the change of format, the tournament was on an even playing field and Taylor began to dominate. He smashed his group with two wins and a draw, including a 6-0 hammering, before narrowly losing to eventual champion Damie in the semi-final. Despite his defeat, Taylor took home £3k in prizes, if you include the online qualifiers.
Taylor admitted that the 85-rated format may have given him an edge in the competition: "To be honest, the limit of three-star skills definitely played into my hands as I've always been quite basic - I'd call it efficient.
"I don't really mess around with skill moves, I do keep the ball a lot and the 85-rated mode is quite slow so it suited me and is probably why I dominated the groups so much, with a goal difference of eight after three games. Even the game I drew I probably should have won all three to be honest.
"Even though it wasn't the intention, the server issues made this a fairer tournament and maybe helped me a bit. There's quite a few players who put a few thousand pounds into the game and at big tournaments like this, you should never be using your own team, everyone should be on an even level."
With their advantage gone, Fnatic manager Colin ‘CoJo’ Johnson admitted he had been worried for his players once the format changed: "We were expecting to do well but I don't know if we were expecting to do this well, especially when the tournament was changed to 85-rated as that doesn't really favour my players' play-styles. They like to play faster whereas 85-rated favours a slower play-style.
"It's funny because Damie and Rannerz drew their first games and from then on they didn't lose a game until the final. I think the adaptation was pretty good and quick, especially with Damie who had FUT qualifiers to play at the same time so he had to play 85 mode, then FUT then back to 85 mode so the fact Damie was not only able to win all of his games on FUT but also in the tournament is a testament to what a flexible player he is - it shows his flexibility and professionalism."
With a battle for bragging rights in the Fnatic house, the final came down to Rannerz and Damie but the latter’s experience on both consoles gave him the advantage. Once Damie took a 3-1 win in his supposedly weaker console of Xbox it was game over and the Polish pro went on to convincingly win the final 5-1.
Commentating on that match was West Ham legend Carlton Cole who was impressed with not only Damie but the scale of the event itself.
"I'm kind of embarrassed to say I didn't know this was going on but it's a massive thing now obviously, West Ham are taking note and we're growing with it. I used to love computers when I was younger, if I could have been paid to play on the computer I would have done that instead of being a footballer!
"I saw Damie today and he is an amazing FIFA player, I was very impressed and he won a lot of money, he said himself he doesn't even know what he's going to do with the £10k. The money doesn't phase these guys, it's not about that, it's about playing and winning, having that title to say that I'm better than you.
"To play in a final takes nerves of steel and Damie was playing against his mate as well which makes it even more nerve-wracking. I like the whole thing and I like the way Damie handles himself. If that was me, I would have shoved it in my friend's face when I beat him while Damie's got a lot of dignity.
"I'm just mightily impressed by everyone who is playing in this. You can say it's a growing sport and if I'm hearing about it now, I'm going to be talking about it a lot, the news spreads. I'll keep my eye on it to see how it grows."